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NC lawmakers return with open agenda

November 13, 2018

Lawmakers return to Raleigh on Nov. 27.

State lawmakers will return to Raleigh Nov. 27 for a lame-duck session expected to deal with voter ID and Hurricane Florence relief. Democrats are concerned about what other proposals could emerge in the waning days of the Republicans’ veto-proof majority.

Republican leaders have said they intend to pass legislation enacting the photo identification requirement to cast a ballot that voters approved last week as a constitutional amendment. They’ll have to decide which forms of ID will be accepted, from driver’s licenses to student, military or tribal IDs, and whether the law will allow for exceptions for voters who can’t obtain an accepted form of identification.

They’re also expected to consider additional legislation dealing with Hurricane Florence recovery. Although they voted in October to approve nearly $800 million over a period of years, much of that money still has to be specifically appropriated for needs identified by state and local agencies. Lawmakers will hear reports this week on the latest damage estimates.

The November session is a continuation of the 2017-18 regular session, so it’s not subject to special rules or restrictions on content. That means anything could pop up on the agenda, including brand-new proposals to strip power from Gov. Roy Cooper. The last time they held a lame-duck session, after the 2016 elections, that’s exactly what happened.

In December 2016, then-Gov. Pat McCrory, the outgoing Republican incumbent, summoned lawmakers back to Raleigh for a special session on Hurricane Matthew relief. Republican lawmakers finished that session and then called a surprise special session of their own.

In a matter of hours, they unveiled and passed two omnibus measures limiting the powers and appointments of the incoming Democrat, Cooper, just days before Cooper took office.

The move sparked protests and arrests at the Legislative Building, as well as a court battle between Cooper and legislative leaders that’s still underway nearly two years later.

WRAL News asked the offices of House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger for information on their expected agendas. Those messages went unanswered Monday, which was a holiday. House Rules Chairman David Lewis, R-Harnett, responded but said he wouldn’t offer details at this time.

House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, D-Wake, told WRAL News he’d been told session would likely run through Thursday, Nov. 29, and if business wasn’t concluded at the point, lawmakers should be prepared to return for additional votes the following week.

“With what happened in December of 2016 with the loss of the Governor’s Office, one cannot help but fear what may be on the agenda with the loss of the super-majority,” Jackson said in an email.

“I believe that, on both the federal and state level, the voters have sent us divided government and the need to work together. I hope the leadership sees that doing a bunch of power-grabbing bills is not what the voters expect or desire from us,” he said. “Instead, we should focus on working together and rebuilding trust that will be needed going into 2019.”

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